Virtual Cosmic Nights: Black Holes

Cosmic Nights returns! Join the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre for another virtual astronomy event, for adults! This time we’re exploring black holes. Few celestial objects fascinate and continue to mystify scientists as much as black holes. Our host Michael Unger will be joined by the Space Centre’s astronomer Rachel Wang, and by guest lecturer astrophysicist Dr. Nathalie Ouellette to discuss what we currently know about black holes, the questions we are still trying to answer, and the incredible technological feats we have achieved to do it!

Grab your favourite beverage, take part in a black hole craft activity and tune in on Zoom or with our new partners at TELUS Optik TV®. See you online!


“Life Cycle of Stars” with Rachel Wang
By observing many stars at various stages in their lifetime, astrophysicists have come to better understand the evolution of stellar life cycles. All stars are born in collapsing clouds of gas and dust called nebulae, but a star’s ultimate fate – whether it goes out with a bang or a whimper – is completely determined by its initial mass. What does that mean for the future of our Sun? What kind of stars will form a black hole? We’ll follow the evolution of stars of all sorts of masses from a protostar to their final form.

Rachel Wang is the astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and recent UBC graduate in physics and astronomy. Her formal role is being the content knowledge expert, while also striving to educate and inspire students of all ages that walk through the Space Centre’s doors. At UBC, she researched blazars using the UBC CTIO telescope in Chile and completed her undergraduate thesis on ultra-cold neutrons at TRIUMF. In her spare time, she dreams of discovering what dark matter is made of and becoming a CSA astronaut.

“Black Holes Don’t Suck” with Dr. Nathalie Ouelette
Few celestial objects fascinate the public and continue to mystify scientists as much as black holes. Their very existence seems to defy the laws of physics as we know them! But we are learning more and more about them all the time, from how they are created to how they affect their environment and even what they look like (sort of)! We'll talk a little bit about what we currently know about black holes, the questions we are still trying to answer and the incredible technological feats we have achieved to do it! One thing is for sure, you'll leave convinced that black holes definitely do not suck.

Nathalie Ouellette is an astrophysicist, science communicator and lifetime lover of all things space! She obtained her Ph.D. in Physics & Astronomy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario in 2016. Her research focuses on galaxy formation and evolution, particularly those found in clusters. In addition to being an active researcher, she is a frequent contributor and analyst in Canadian media on everything related to space. She also organises and participates in public outreach events from local to national scales. Nathalie is currently the Coordinator of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) at the University of Montréal and is also the Outreach Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope in Canada collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency.

“How to Photograph a Black Hole” with Daryl Haggard
Post-event we’ll be sending out a link to access this with interview Daryl Haggard, Assistant Professor of Physics at McGill University in the McGill Space Institute. Daryl leads multi-wavelength, time domain studies of growing supermassive black holes, including Sagittarius A* and M87. As a member of the multi-wavelength coordination team, she joined the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration in reporting the first direct image of a black hole’s shadow in 2019.

What do you think the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way looks like? What should we call it? Send us your response as original prose, images, art, music or anything you’ve created that is inspired by black holes. We’ll share some of the entries during the live broadcast of Virtual Cosmic Nights: Black Holes.

Download the PDF, and gather your art supplies.

Email your submissions to [email protected] along with your name and location. Providing your work gives us permission to share it during the broadcast, and on the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s social media accounts. We will only share your first name and location publicly.

The content covered during this event will be tailored to an adult audience.

We are hosting the event from Vancouver, BC, Canada and will be starting at 7:00pm PST.



There are two ways to participate in the event:

1) ZOOM We will send you a link and password to join before the event starts. New to Zoom? Here’s a link with instructions for joining the live stream.

2) TELUS Optik TV® watch on channel 611, or login and watch online.

Event Details

June 3, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm